Jake Berry MP, Part 4

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

Here we are again! For more news has come in about Jake Berry, the MP for Rossendale and Darwen who is also a property owner on Ynys Môn.

Though there have been moves behind the scenes to stop the word getting out. Facebook refuses to carry any mention of Jake Berry, or even a link to the blog when that link makes no mention of him! Now I can no longer access my Facebook page.

Telling me that this platform for despots, pornographers and election fiddlers may be closer to the Conservative and Unionist Party than I’d suspected. Thankfully I only ever used Facebook for carrying links to this blog.

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So let’s hope President Trump carries through his threat to rein in these social media platforms.

Even if you’re new to the saga you will have guessed that with this being part 4 there have been three previous instalments. If you haven’t read them then you might want to catch up. They were Jake Berry MP: ‘They seek him here, they seek him there’; Followed by Jake Berry MP, Part 2 and Jake Berry MP, Part 3.

AN INTRODUCTORY DIGRESSION

In order to explain what’s new I need to tell you about legislation introduced by those wonderful and talented people down Corruption Bay who go by the name of the ‘Welsh Government’.

I’m referring to the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Like so much ‘Welsh’ legislation this was, essentially, updating earlier legislation with the addition of a few expensive and virtue signalling tweaks for the benefit of sectors in Wales close to the Labour Party.

The perks included increased influence for housing associations, which saw their Englandandwales role enhanced, allowing them to import more tenants from over the border.

The influence of housing associations also became clear with The Regulation of Private Rented Housing (Designation of Licensing Authority) (Wales) Order 2015.

This gave us Rent Smart Wales (RSW), a registration body for private landlords which began operating in November 2016. Responsibility for running RSW was given to Cardiff City Council. (Yet another example of Welsh jobs being unnecessarily concentrated in Cardiff.)

On the one hand, who could argue with asking private landlords to register and meet certain standards?

Yet those of a less trusting bent saw Rent Smart Wales as the ‘Welsh Government’ being pressed by housing associations into making life difficult for their biggest rivals. If it benefited tenants, then fine, but that wasn’t really important.

Housing in Wales is a contentious issue, perhaps more so than elsewhere, and this is only partly due to the proliferation of holiday homes and the extension of English commuter belts along the A55 and the M4.

To compound their errors the ‘progressive’ parties then voted to abolish Right to Buy. For being socialists they’re opposed to lesser mortals enjoying the benefits of private property; they want control over the people, they want a population beholden to the state. To them.

Labour and Plaid Cymru justified abolishing Right to Buy by arguing there was a shortfall in social housing. Yet strict local allocations would have dealt with any shortfall without having to deny many Welsh people their only chance of ever owning a home.

The three candidates in Plaid Cymru’s 2018 leadership contest owned, between them (with spouses/partners) nine or ten houses. It may be more by now.

But however we got here, we now have Rent Smart Wales.

But when attempts were made to introduce similar legislation in England in 2016, Jake Berry, the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen voted against. As did every other landlord Conservative MP.

Jake Berry’s position was perhaps understandable given that he owned rented property in Liverpool. You can see that in the Register of Members’ Interests declaration from October 2016 that he also declared a house and a share of a house in Rhoscolyn ‘North Wales’.

Jake Berry’s House of Commons Declaration October 2016. Click to enlarge

By the time of the most recent declaration, earlier this month, the Liverpool properties had disappeared and more properties had appeared on Ynys Môn.

The house with associated farmland is Rhyd-y-Bont, bought late last year for £780,000.

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One of the rental properties is Plas Coch, which seems to have been owned by the Berry family for some time. Last week I had a message from the former tenant of Plas Goch. He gave me his phone number and I rang him earlier this week.

He told me he had been the tenant of Plas Coch since 2012 but then, last summer, Jake Berry and his father turned up and gave him two weeks notice to get out. (I’m told Jake never came alone.)

When the tenant asked if the landlord or the property was registered with Rent Smart Wales Jake backed off and graciously allowed him a little longer before he had to sling his hook.

Clearly Jake Berry knew about Rent Smart Wales, and equally clearly, he wasn’t registered. To clarify the position I visited the RSW website. Searching for ‘Jake Berry’ turned up nothing. So I looked for and found an entry for Plas Coch. Which told me that our boy was calling himself ‘James Berry’.

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What seems to have happened is that after being challenged by the then tenant of Plas Coch Jake Berry went to the Rent Smart Wales website and made some kind of initial registration, but this was not followed through, indicated by ‘Licence Not Yet Submitted’.

There are a number of benefits for a landlord not registering with Rent Smart Wales. As a landlord who contacted me explained:

I find that people who ‘accidentally’ don’t register usually haven’t bothered with gas safety certification, deposit protection etc. Which begs the question, did your contact have his deposit protected? Was it returned? If he googles ‘is my deposit protected’ he can find out. He can claim back up to three times the deposit he paid if it wasn’t.

Rent Smart keep telling me they are actively issuing fines for those who don’t comply as we’re coming up to the fifth year of this being in place.

There’s something going on up in Anglesey, when I look on Zoopla at properties to rent there’s hardly any with Energy Performance Certificates which is another legal requirement.

If you want me to look into anything, I can do my best.”

Naturally, I took him up on his offer. For the idea that something odd is happening on the island raises all sorts of intriguing possibilities. Is Rent Smart Wales up to the job? Is a blind eye being turned on Ynys Môn to these irregularities?

The contact mentioned Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), and these can be found by following a link on the RSW website for each property. The EPC is very important because, from April this year, it has been illegal to “create new tenancies in England and Wales without an EPC rating of E or above.

The EPC for Plas Goch, according to the certificate issued 21 March 2013, was 50, putting it in the E (39 – 54) band. But that was 2013, God knows what the rating is now. The fact that no test has been done for 7 years might suggest that Jake Berry is not confident of passing.

As we’ve seen, the declaration in the Register of Members’ Interests lists a number of properties, but the problem lies in the wording: ‘Land and property portfolio: (i) value over £100,000 and/or (ii) giving rental income of over £10,000 a year’, which makes it difficult to know if what is being declared is ownership or rental income.

CORRECTION: It has been drawn to my attention that more careful reading of Berry’s Commons declaration tells us that (i) and (ii) can be differentiated. Which means that the final part, which must refer to Rhyd-y-Bont, says that the house (i) was bought at the end of September and the land (ii) rented out from December.

Enquiries are further hindered by two of the properties being shared, which opens the possibility of them being registered under another’s name. So I checked the RSW records again, where all properties under each specific post code are listed, for Cerrig and Mountain View. The former was listed but unregistered, while the latter wasn’t even listed. Is it known by another name?

So I tried looking under Jake’s Berry’s father, David, and I found an entry that fits the bill. A David Berry successfully registered with Rent Smart Wales last July, the same month ‘James’ Berry made contact. David Berry operates through agents Peter Large and Company Ltd on the north coast.

But irrespective of these considerations we can be sure that Jake Berry MP was illegally letting Plas Coch from 23 November, 2016, when the Rent Smart Wales legislation came into effect, until the middle of last year. And he knew it. 

What action does Rent Smart Wales, or indeed the ‘Welsh Government’, plan on taking?

WALES, THE RENTIER PARADISE

The former tenant of Plas Coch also told me that from conversations with a neighbour familiar with the Berry family’s holdings that the clan may have as many as 16 properties on Ynys Môn.

In addition to the ones we know, a few more possibles have been identified by various sources, including one where the local MP, Virginia Crosbie, is said to stay during her visits to the constituency. It’s difficult to check because the Land Registry documents show this property as still belonging to a man who died over three years ago.

But death didn’t stop him putting in a planning application last year. Praise the Lord!

As a result of the ‘Welsh Government’s war on farmers, its environmental virtue signalling that benefits none but malodorous dropouts on their OPD communes and eco-shysters covering our hills with flood-causing and bird-killing wind turbines, coupled with its refusal to build a rural economy beyond tourism and granny dumping, the greater part of our country is now given over to interlopers cleansing northern villages of their indigenous inhabitants so that the Cheshire Set can demand £3,000,000 for properties in ‘Abbasock’.

Is this the Wales you want; where your children or grandchildren have to leave because there are no homes and jobs for them, or else remain as a members of a helot population subservient to a new master race?

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In more than twenty years the ‘progressive’ parties in Corruption Bay have done nothing for the Welsh people. In fact they have consistently legislated against the Welsh national interest.

The Berry family and the other rentier networks are the result of  ‘progressive’ party policies being enacted in Corruption Bay. Socialist policies that have achieved the same result we would have seen if Unionist-conservative parties had been running things since 1999 – the steady but relentless anglicisation of Wales.

Ideological considerations are largely irrelevant in a colonial context because it’s the colony against its masters. Those within the colony who promote their own interests by trying to disguise or ameliorate colonial rule are little different and certainly no better than those whose interests they serve.

The only way to put an end to this cycle of decline is to abandon the self-serving middle men and women to vote for one of the new parties that puts Welsh interests first, above the deceits and delusions of ideology.

So join Gwlad or the Welsh National Party, and get active ahead of next year’s Welsh Parliament elections. Because we can’t afford to keep voting for the same old liars.

♦ end ♦

 




Let’s Be Honest About Housing Associations

This post is a revised version of an article that recently appeared in Cambria magazine

When I was growing up in Swansea in the 1950s most of the people I knew lived in terraced houses owned by people we didn’t know. For our house, the rent was collected by a chain-smoking bottle blonde from Mumbles who would enter the payment in her rent book with the kind of yellow fingers that persuaded me to become the only 10-year-old in the area who smoked his Woodbine from the other end of a cigarette holder. (Well, I was too young to give up smoking.) Despite our rent-collector’s aesthetic shortcomings, her caBuddy Hollylling was considered a steady job, and quite respectable. There were a lot of them about. Another I recall was a man with a bicycle that had a small motor affixed to the back wheel, which I found fascinating. I can see him now, tackling hills with the tails of his long, drab mac flapping behind him.

Some of these rented properties would then be sub-let, or lodgers would be taken in to help pay for a ‘telly’, or a week in Tenby. One such sub-lettee was ‘Old Sam’, who lived in someone’s front room across the road from us. Sam had piles of pennies (he had piles of just about everything, come to that!) and I’d be sent across the road when the gas meter was running low. Then, some tme in 1958, my father decided to join the property-owning classes. This rise in the status of the Joneses was not without disruption; for example, our new home needed a bit of work, things like a kitchen and an indoor lavatory.

So while the builders were in I was farmed out to my maternal grandmother over on Pentregethin Road. And it was from there, walking through a building site to Penlan School one bitterly cold February morning, that I overheard a trio ahead of me talking; “‘Ave ew yerd, mush – Buddy Holly been killed”. There’d been a light snowfall and the wind had blown the snow against the piles of builders’ sand. It was so cold that the snow didn’t melt, yet the fall had been so light that I could almost make out the individual flakes. That’s how I heard of the death of my idol, though the rest of that day is lost.


Those of our acquaintance that didn’t live in privately rented properties tended to live on council estates, such as Penlan, through which I had walked that dreary February morning. Penlan belonged to a new generation of post-war council estates, supplementing those Swansea had constructed in the inter-war period – Lloyd George’s ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ – most noticeably the massive Townhill-Mayhill estate, collectively and colloquially referred to as, ‘The ‘Ill’. As in, ‘Whe’ by do ew live, luv?’ ‘Up on the cowinʽ ‘Ill!’. (I’m making myself quite homesick here.)

Despite the allocation system for council tenancies being, theoretically at least, needs based, it was a decided advantage if one was a Labour Party member, trade union official, or friend / relative of a local councillor. Of course, as a young lad the complexities of this allocation system were beyond my ken, though it must be said that many of my elders were also confused. Especially those who thought they had enough points to put them near the top of the waiting list, only to find that they had been queue-jumped by a woman no better than she ought to be whose only ‘points’ seemed to be . . . no, let’s not go there, or I shall be accused of picking on the Labour Party again.

Yet it’s worth remembering that prior to World War One there had been very little housing built by local authorities; in fact, I’m not sure there was any council housing built in Wales. Before the Great War housing had either been built by the big companies and mine owners or quarry owners for their workers, or else the need for rented property was met by speculative developers. (In the village where I now live most of the properties over 30 years old were built by the owners of the local quarry in the 19th century to be rented to their workers.) But the fact was that just about everybody had a home, even if it was a little room like Sam’s, piled high with pennies, newspapers and God knows what else in a permanent fog of stale urine. Well into the 1950s unmarried adults (and many young married couples) lived with their parents, the elderly invariably lived with their adult children, while single men and young women who left home to work ‘took lodgings’ or found a ‘bedsit’.

So we can safely say that council or social housing, despite our familiarity with it today, has been a feature of Welsh life for less than a century. With its hey-day probably already in the past, for today most Welsh local authorities have lost their housing stock to housing associations. Another big difference between 1915 and 2015 is of course that most people today are home owners, and many more aspire to be, which is another need being met by housing associations with ‘shared ownership’ schemes and other imaginative arrangements. All of which makes housing associations worthy of closer inspection.


Despite self-applied labels such as ‘social enterprises’ and ‘not-for-profit organisations’ most housing associations are registered as Industrial and Provident Societies; registered with, but not regulated by, the Financial Services Authority. And unlike companies limited by guarantee they have share capital. Then, and despite wanting us to believe they are public bodies, housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. (Your local council is of course covered by the Act.) All that being so, and it suggesting they are not public bodies, why have housing associations in Wales received billions of pounds in public funding since the arrival of devolution in 1999? And why is so much of this Welsh public funding seeping over the border in the form of maintenance contracts and sub-contracts for English companies?

If you think I’m exaggerating, just remember that thirty years ago the housing departments of our councils provided many tens of thousands of jobs, making this sector one of the biggest employers, especially in our rural areas. There were those employed in building and maintaining the hundreds of thousands of council properties, and there were also jobs in administration, allocating properties, collecting rents and dealing with all manner of queries. Thirty years ago local authorities were big players in the economic life of the country. ‘But surely’, you ask, ‘the council staff simply transferred to the new owner of the properties?’ Well, usually . . . some . . . and to begin with . . .

To explain what’s happening now I shall use an example I have studied on my own door-step – literally from my own door-step! In 2010 Gwynedd council’s housing stock was transferred to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (Gwynedd Community Housing), and to begin with, things seemed to carry on much as before. More recently, worrying changes have been apparent. The contract for maintaining the properties was awarded to Lovell, a major English company which has its ‘local’ branch office in Cheshire. Lovell in turn sub-contracted to smaller companies over the border. Let me explain how this works in practice.

In 2013 Lovell’s sub-contractors were working in the Tywyn area and my next-door neighbour waited months for his bathroom and kitchen to be re-tiled. The tilers travelled every day – when they bothered to turn up – from Wigan. Their day worked out at roughly four hours of travelling and five hours of work! And this lunacy, remember, is being perpetrated with Welsh public funding and at the expense of Welsh sub contractors!

More recently we have seen the controversy over CCG’s attempts to bring in English managers. Defended and disguised with arguments such as ‘unable to find suitable Welsh-speaking applicants’ and ‘seeking the best for the job’, when the truth is that it’s a move to better ‘integrate’ CCG with the Englandandwales social housing setup. Those it is hoped to recruit will have contacts in England that will ensure Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd secures more tenants from the lucrative – but damaging to the host community – ‘vulnerable’ sector. The real question is, where did this diktat originate? Because CCG’s chief executive, Ffrancon Williams, seems to be just a mouthpiece in this, and the acquiescing Board member nothing but a smokescreen. The decision was certainly taken elsewhere.

The table below (click to enlarge) shows the amounts of funding given to Welsh housing associations in just one six-year period and from just one funding stream, the Social Housing Grant. Couldn’t that seven hundred million pounds – and all the rest! – have been better used?

Social Housing full

There are just so many problems attaching to the current arrangements for social housing. The one I have just dealt with in Gwynedd is replicated across Wales, resulting in thousands of jobs being lost and billions of pounds of Welsh money flowing over the border – Welsh public money that is supposed to be used to boost the Welsh economy! In addition, Wales is locked into an Englandandwales system that means a large family of English social misfits (or worse) can qualify for social housing in Wales ahead of locals; as can criminals, drug addicts, paedophiles and other who qualify as ‘vulnerable’, and therefore generate more income for whoever houses them. With such rich pickings on offer no one should be surprised to learn that many housing associations are building properties in numbers that cannot be justified by local demand – especially in some rural towns – and are only being built at all to meet the lucrative demand from England. As an example of what I’m talking about let’s remember the paedophile gang housed by Gwalia in Cydweli, which generated a lot more income than if those properties had been used to house law-abiding locals.

STOP PRESS: Just before posting I learnt that police in Haverfordwest are warning interested parties (schools, etc.,) that convicted sex offenders are now being housed in the centre of the town.

I don’t wish to paint an overly depressing picture (recalling ‘The Day the Music Died’ has already had me reaching for the Kleenex!), but social housing in Wales is an indefensible system. To conclude this section, and expose the lunacy from another angle, consider this. Apart from hundreds of councillors worried about losing their allowances just about everyone else in Wales believes we need many fewer local authorities. That being so, why does our ‘Welsh’ Government encourage the proliferation of housing associations – actually funding them to compete with each other? Or to put it another way: why should an area deemed too small to have its own local authority have half a dozen or more housing associations on its patch fighting like ferrets in a sack over the social housing racket?


The day of council-owned social housing is clearly coming to an end, dealt its death-blow by Margaret Thatcher’s Housing Act of 1980 and its ‘Right-to-Buy’ provisions. I would like to believe that we are approaching the end of social housing altogether and heading towards a system in which all rented accommodation will be provided by private sector. Housing associations are obviously a half-way house towards such a system, and were probably designed to be just that. What I would like to see in the next few years is their full privatisation. The writing may be on the wall, and it’s in David Cameron’s own hand.

In January 2012 the UK Prime Minister announced new legislation (due in 2015) for the governing of co-operatives (including Industrial Provident Societies), and he said, “We know that breaking monopolies, encouraging choice, opening up new forms of enterprise is not just right for business but the best way of improving public services too”. What I’ve underlined is a strange term to use in relation to what purports to be nothing more than legislation to consolidate earlier Bills and iron out anomalies. ‘New forms of enterprise’ in the same sentence as ‘public services’ should also have raised a few eyebrows.

Then we have the Housing (Wales) Act of 2014. On the one hand this seeks to further integrate Wales with England but it also has a lot to say about the ‘Regulation of Private Rented Housing’, with little of it aimed at your average ‘Buy-to-Let’ investor. My reading of Part One of the Act (by far the largest of the nine Parts) is that it sets the ground rules for a major shift in the provision of social or rented housing. And why not?

Housing associations already borrow money from banks and other institutions, so why shouldn’t they be allowed to look for commercial investors and shareholders? They would have little trouble in attracting them given that they have solid assets in the form of their housing stock. Housing associations would be ideal investment vehicles for pension funds, and socially acceptable for the more ‘ethical’ investor. Fully privatised social housing, with the right legislation in place to guarantee secure tenancies, prioritising locals, fair rents, etc., would not only provide investment opportunities but such an arrangement would also relieve a great burden on the public purse.

And there is of course another great advantage to handing the provision of rented housing over to the private sector. There is unquestionably a housing shortage, not in Wales, but in England. Despite the platitudes and promises, there is no intention of ever meeting the needs of all those wanting to own their own home, because to do so would reduce the value of millions of other homes people have invested in. So the demand remains. So why not meet it by letting the private sector build decent homes for rent, dwellings with – as on the Continent – more cachet than social housing and its connotations of problem families, pit bulls and sink estates? Give people a decent home, solve the housing crisis, and create jobs in the process, something that could be done without causing revolution in the suburbs.


Those buffoons down Cardiff docks who persist in masquerading as the ‘Welsh’ Government need to decide whether they want to start living up to their billing, or whether they continue allowing Wales to be run by English civil servants taking orders from London and doing little more than feeding the parasites of the Third Sector. If they choose the former, then one of the most convincing ways of showing their newly-grown gonads would be to devise Welsh laws for Welsh needs, rather than being bullied into accepting English laws with ‘(Wales)’ inserted into the name. Social housing might be a good place to start.

The table below shows that the fastest growing hoising sector in Wales is the private rented sector. Much of this is accounted for by ‘Buy-to-let’ mortgages but, increasingly, major companies and corporations are moving into the sector. Again, why not? As I’ve said, the demand for home ownership will never be met because to do so would lead to a collapse in property values; so why not allow private and commercial landlords to provide more salubrious accommodation than is currently provided by housing associations?

Housing by tenure

As I hope to have persuaded you, the current, Twilight Zone model of publicly-funded quasi-private companies is an unsustainable nonsense resulting from Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right-to-Buy’ legislation. The irony being that it is currently sustained by ‘Welsh’ Labour and it’s right-on cronies in the Third Sector. This situation leaves us with two options. The first would see a new model of publicly-owned social housing, serving Welsh needs, employing Welsh people, and giving contracts to Welsh companies. The second option is to cut housing associations adrift (from public funding) and say, ‘Right you’re on your own now, behave like private companies, find shareholders and raise your own funding using your massive assets as collateral’.

The first option takes us back to that system we were once comfortable with (and so proud of); whereas the second option takes us back to private landlords (but without the bottle blondes with nicotine-stained fingers). Either option will be an improvement on the absurd system we know today; which sees far too many housing associations in Wales, and too many of them wanting to employ English staff, give contracts to English companies, and take in English tenants – and do it all using Welsh public funding!

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